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Pending shutdown already costs taxpayers

Updated: Monday, September 30 2013, 07:40 PM EDT

Asked about the stalemate in Washington over whether to fund government Tom Fox summed it up this way "I'm disgusted and fed up with them all. It's just a joke."

The clock is ticking toward a midnight shutdown of the federal government, but what it will cost taxpayers is no joke. The last shutdown almost two decades ago was more than just inconvenient for people who wanted to visit a National Park or get a passport.

It was expensive.

In his weekly radio address January 20, 1996 President Bill Clinton said the "shutdowns so far have costs taxpayers about $1.5 billion dollars. That's not monopoly money."

In today's dollars, adjusted for inflation that would equal about $2 billion.

"The shutdown doesn't save money in the short term," said David Primo, a professor of Political Science and Business Administration at the University of Rochester and Simon School.

If you turn off the lights and shut the door to close off a room at your house you save money. That's not how it works for the federal government.

"Every time the government shuts down there are going to be costs incurred," explained Primo.

It costs money to secure files and develop contingency plans. By some estimates shutting down the government costs $21 million dollars a day. During the last shutdown, for example, the labor department spent $12-thousand dollars to print and mail furlough notices.

Taxpayers lost another $2.2 billion dollars in licensing fees that went uncollected. At the EPA more than $60 million in fines were not collected either. "The Republians may hope that by shutting down the government temporarily it's going to lead to cost savings down the road but in the short term it definitely costs us money," said Primo.

"It's also a side show and the amounts of money that we are taking about are chump change compared to the real long term fiscal threats we face as a country that neither party is talking about," he adds.

Contingency plans are already being made in many federal agencies and departments which equals money being spent. So even if there's a last minute deal to prevent a shutdown there's already a cost to taxpayers.

"A shutdown doesn't save money," said US Senator Chuck Schumer (D) New York. "It would just hurt our Rochester area economy."

Jane Flasch

Pending shutdown already costs taxpayers

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